Q&A: Chuck Klosterman answers critics

Author of controversial <i>Esquire</i> article on the state of game journalism outlines the reasons he threw down the gauntlet.

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Since the games press began in the mid-1980s, it has had a complicated relationship with the mainstream media. For every respectable publication striving for integrity, there seem to be several more fly-by-night operations that ignore basic journalistic practices to pander to gamers' basest appetites to gain circulation.

As a result, many mainstream magazines and newspapers tend to dismiss game publications as covens of fanboyism and wellsprings of hackeyened prose. In the July issue of Esquire magazine, author and former Spin rock critic Chuck Klosterman wrote an article titled "The Lester Bangs of Video Games". In that article he claimed that "video games in 2006 are the culture equivalent of rock music in 1967," but Klosterman also effectively leveled a broadside against game journalism, asserting that "video-game criticism doesn't exist."

Though dozens of hard-working game reporters would take more than a little issue with Klosterman's assertions, his article was widely circulated, and remains a hot topic of debate. To get a deeper insight into Klosterman's views on the state of game journalism, CNET's Rich Brown asked the writer to delve into the reasoning behind his now-infamous article.

Q: One of the first points you make in the article equates games to rock and roll. I think that's something that people are curious about. Can you expand on the idea a little bit?

Chuck Klosterman: I always felt that the reason that rock music was such an important element of the 20th century was because it was the only genre of art that was specifically tied to youth. And it was the only major art form where part of its importance was intertwined with a representation of a younger world view, what it's like to be a teenager in America or England in this very specific time. And over time that relationship became less central, it became the dominant mainstream form of music in the world. I feel that video games followed a different trajectory, but ended up in a similar place. If you take two 15-year-old guys, they probably both like rock music, but rock music might mean totally different things to them. For one it might mean listening to the White Stripes, and for the other it might mean Coldplay or Brooks and Dunn, and they might not have that much in common other than that they're both listening to pop music. Now obviously video games are always different too, but the experience of gaming acts as a unifying element for young people. I think the experience of gaming changes the way you look at the world. It's the same thing that the Beatles did to people in the '60s. That's why I think that if you're looking at the state of gaming now, what you're seeing is [similar to] that period of rock music before it became a mass commodity.

Q: When you talk about the audience I think there's a lot of different opinion on who the audience is. The most obvious is probably the 10- to 35-year-old male. But then you have old folks who play Solitaire. Do you think there needs to be a critical distinction between different types of gaming in order to establish a school of criticism?

CK: Does there need to be? I don't know. "Need" is an interesting word to use. I think that people were confused by my piece. What they seemed to think that I was saying is that no one is doing good video game criticism. And that's not really the point, I wasn't making that argument. What I was saying is that there seems to be no dominant person writing about video games in a way that transcends the insular culture of gaming. In other words there's no one writing about video games who is of interest to people who aren't actively playing them. I mean you look at film in the 1970s--there were people writing about film who were being read by people who had no intention of seeing those movies. So when does something become a critical element of the zeitgeist? It's when people who barely care are interested. It's when you can move beyond the person who is actively involved in the game. I think it's interesting that no one has done this in video games or that it hasn't worked out this way and I was looking for an explanation as to why.

Q: That was one point that came up in many of the various articles and comments online. There are actually a lot of people writing about games. Yes, it's very insular, and it's hard to understand if you're not a gamer. But there's also a certain feeling among gamers that there's no need for a mainstream writer or publisher to legitimize what they're doing.

CK: And that's why part of the article said that this will probably never happen. What's interesting about this is that it's an art form, like a lot of art forms, that's a reflection of the technology that comes along with it. And the technology that allows video games to be popular is also part of the reason that necessitates less criticism. I mean there are probably more people writing about video games, than there are about oh, certainly theater. I'm talking about conventional theater. Most of the people engaged with the video game world have blogs or they have listservs and it's incredibly easy for them to do that. It's an insular culture that's very easy to join; basically you need access to a computer. If I had written an essay about what has happened to theater criticism there would have been no response. Not because no one cares about theater criticism, but because there aren't thousands and thousands and of theater critics that have blogs.

If there was confusion over this piece, and I think that there was, it was that people seem to think that it was a criticism of either gaming or game writing. And what I was basically talking about is that it's sort of strange how this growing and dominant art form seems to have a different sort of social experience than the things that it's most similar to which are the other kinds of youth-oriented art forms, like rock and film.

Q: Are any mainstream publishers asking for game writing?

CK: They all are. What they're looking for constantly are people who write about video games in a way that is interesting to people outside of the insular world of gaming.

Q: So if someone went to Esquire or GQ with a video game pitch, you would have their ear?

CK: It depends on who the person is. This is the key to all kinds of arts criticism. You have to be a writer first. Regardless of what your knowledge of the product is, or of the art form, or the idea, you have to be a writer first. So if someone calls up any kind of magazine with the best idea in the world, but they had never published anything before, in any avenue besides their own blog, well of course they're not going to be asked to write that piece. These magazines are for audiences of 250,000 people or whatever, who are used to a certain level of journalism. It's more than just having an idea. As I talked about in the piece, it's going to have to be someone that comes out of that world who's also a really great writer.

Q: Now every time the topic of serious game criticism comes up, there's always a really strong backlash. Where do you think that might come from?

CK: I don't know. You'd probably know more than I would. It just seems like one of those things that might be more interesting to people that don't play video games than to people who do. I mean maybe the idea of writing about the social meaning of Bad Day L.A. is more interesting to the person who's not actually going to play it. And maybe to those who are legitimately and actively engaged, the context issue is not what's drawing them to the game.

If somebody was writing about the San Francisco rock thing from the late '60s and early '70s, they didn't come from the musical world, they weren't really interested in the Grateful Dead. They might look at writing about the amount of acid people are taking, because for that person the most interesting thing might be the culture of LSD that comes with the music. But for people who love the music, who are playing it or the audience for it, they might see that as very tangential, and they might wonder why someone did a piece about this relatively unimportant element of their culture. And that might be how it is with video game writing. I'm saying it would be interesting to see a transcendent video game critic, but maybe that proves that I'm not really involved with this world. And I'm not. Esquire's not a video game magazine. I write about things that are interesting to me.

Q: You keep saying that you think there's been some misunderstanding about the point of the article. How do you come by that idea?

CK: I know people who are more engaged with it than I am, and when I say "it," I mean the Internet. They'll send me a link to someone who has responded to it. That's how it is. Lots of things you write get responses--positive or negative. But when you write about something where somebody has an avenue to respond, it seems to excuse the amount of controversy it's created. I wrote about ethanol a couple months ago. There are certainly people who disagree with what I wrote, and there are people who agree, but the fact of the matter is people really interested in the ethanol industry aren't going to go on a listserv about it.

The way I look at this is that it was just something that I found interesting, and I write about things that are interesting with me. If there's somebody in the gaming community that has a problem with it, I totally understand it, and that's fine. I'm just surprised that this is the first time that someone's ever written about this in a mainstream publication. That alone makes it seem worth having done it.

Tell me, why do you think that people were upset about it? I have to say it kind of mystifies me, I wonder if you can explain it to me?

Q: Well, I think it's because there was this idea that you were saying, "Hey, there's no legitimate writing about this."

CK: It felt like a lot of people who wrote about video games took it sort of personally. What I was arguing was that at this point with the Internet there is somebody writing about everything. There's somebody out there doing daily reviews of zoo giraffes. Everything is being written about. But when you have so many people with the ability to essentially self-publish, it's hard for someone to have any kind of authority, and I'm not saying that's good or bad, but that it's interesting. And I think it would be to the gaming industry's benefit, if there were people who started writing about it for people who aren't engrossed in it. The closest person to what I'm describing is probably Steven Johnson [author of Everything Bad is Good for You]. To someone who's a hardcore gaming person, they're like "Well, Steven Johnson, he's just a dilettante, he's just in the shallow end of this world." But what he's able to do is write about these very complex ideas so that people can hear about them for the first time. Or Douglas Rushkoff is another great example. When Douglas Rushkoff wrote Media Virus!, that was the first time that a lot of people had ever thought about the meaning of video games. And I think it's those kinds of people who can be a bridge between the insular culture and the mainstream culture.

Q: Thanks a lot. Chuck, we appreciate it.

Discussion

68 comments
sinelnic
sinelnic

I remember listening to Spielberg about Kubrick, saying his craftmanship in his movies (lens choices, illumination, editing) was the best in history. He then went on describing a scene from one of his movies, and because of its emotional content, he started crying, made the reporter cry, and myself also. Which part of Spielberg's comment looks more like regular game criticism? which part looks more like what ordinary people would be interested about in any kind of art form? I think Chuck's article is completely right, although, I love gamespot and regular game criticism. I just miss having the opportunity of reading someone who can put in great words, the experience I get when playing a game.

Merus_Draconis
Merus_Draconis

How do you describe the colour blue to a blind man? What if you were the only one in the world who could see the colour blue? I think the two questions relate to computer games - is it possible to write about them so that people who don't play see what we see? Is it just that no-one's ever tried?

slick_gio
slick_gio

Came a bit late to this so most points I would have made have allready been covered to some extent by SuperH75mil and Ikthog, but I will say a few things. It is my oppinion that the "video game criticism" that Chuck is looking for doesn't need to be found. If I'm going to read an article that somehow deals with video games, I'd want its relevence to be geared more toward the actual video game (as in how some specific game element spices up the experience) rather than how it will cause an epiphany in society as a whole. I for one enjoyed Carrie's feature on the Uncanny Valley. For me, it gave a name and explanation to the sensation I'd sometimes have when viewing an almost lifelike human image (Heavy Rain in the case of the article) . I'd question how much interest the mainstream audience would find in this particular piece. The biggest problem I had with Chuck's comparison of video games to music and film and its lack of an equivilant critic to the latter mediums is that video games are not the same. The most important aspect that sets video games apart is that it's not a passive form of entertainment and its main goal is to be fun through interaction. With music, a comment can be made on its ability to foster certain ideas, emotions, memories and things of that nature. Film's can be a social commentaries and create stories that the individual can personaly relate to. All you really need to critic these mediums are your eyes and ears. But for games you need to take it a step further and actually experience the game. A critic would need to know how to play a the game. That is where the enjoyment is to be had in games; in the experience. Now, for the crux of my point (yes, my ramble has a point) lies in how is a writer suppose to bring interest to a medium that cannot be fully enjoyed simply by seeing and hearing? How is someone with no interest in playing a game going to read an article and suddently become interesting when the main interest comes from the experience of the game?

Ikthog
Ikthog

If you've actually read Klosterman's (very short) article, I think most of the negative reaction to it is unfounded. He's spot on with regard to the state of gaming journalism, in that the voice of gaming criticism typically lacks the ability (or even the interest) to place games within a larger cultural context. I think his comparison of today's games to 1960s rock and roll makes some sense, though I think perhaps music played a larger role in American and world culture than games do today, not least because music was a social lubricant -- it brought people together, to share ideas, love, drugs and sex (the latter being arguably the entire purpose of the invention of rock and roll) -- whereas gaming tends to separate people as much as it unites them. Rock criticism grew out of a desire, I think, to explain what it meant and record its significance outside the realm of long-haired, dancing, stoned music fans. Lester Bangs and other seminal rock critics weren't necessarily anything special, they just had talent, and an insatiable desire to make people understand this thing that had transformed their world. But rock music also tied in strongly with its fans' personal lives, on every level -- the desire to rebel against authority, to be cool, to be seen as a bit dangerous, to define oneself -- and within a context of great social upheaval and change. Rock was also driven by dynamic personalities, people who lived a sort of fantasy lifestyle and were the subject of endless adulation by screaming fans. People wanted to know what it was like to be a rock star, so writing about what it was like to hang out with a band after a show was pretty compelling to a lot of people. I'm not sure gaming really has that kind of impact on most gamers' lives, to the degree that they feel so compelled to write about it in the way Bangs and others did back then. Though you can't make the kind of generalizations about gamers people used to make decades ago, it's still largely the case that gaming is not widely considered to be cool or sexy by the mainstream, and as such, there are only so many gamers that define themselves around gaming the way many young people once defined themselves around rock music. Gaming is not driven by "rock stars" or auteurs to the degree that music or other art forms are, and as such, character studies of the people behind the scenes are only going to be so interesting to non-gamers (or even gamers, for that matter). That doesn't mean gaming lacks the social or cultural substance for great journalism, by any means, but it would take someone with uncommon talent AND a real passion for gaming to find the compelling stories. And it would have to happen within the realm of serious journalism, not in a gaming magazine read only by gamers (though it wouldn't necessarily need to be within the established, New York-based literary publishing world, or even in print). I actually think there is no end of interesting stories within the gaming world, but no one is even trying to tell them, and like Klosterman, I find that a bit odd. There are reviews, and there are some mainstream articles about the business side of gaming, and occasionally the New York Times and other publications will comment on the state of games; but most of the articles I've read are aimed either at gamers, or at an audience that has no desire to understand games beyond their fiscal significance. I think the skeptics here would be pretty impressed if some amazingly talented writer was to really capture both the insider allure and the larger significance of games, I just think we have seen that so little, we're not entirely sure what it would look like.

cypher50
cypher50

Wait, wait, wait...I have been reading Penny Arcade (not just the comic but the news posts too) for about 5 years and only one person here mentions it passingly as being a good source of criticism? Penny Arcade THRIVES on criticism; I can't see how anyone can undervalue what PA has contributed to the videogame community when it comes to being a consistent voice on many things that videogame fans feel is right & wrong (for instance, there constant critiquing of BAD VIDEOGAME JOURNALISM)...

brous002
brous002

No this isn't Sally Jesse Raphael, it's Cory Feldmans gay twin brother.

jedismurf2
jedismurf2

I think writers who consider themselves the chroniclers of modern culture feel that they have missed something when it comes to gaming. Journalists feel comfortable critiquing other forms of media and art because they are able to view it from the point of view of how it affects culture, and most people are willing to accept that as genuine criticism. As gamers, we require more than a cursory glance into the cultural messages and socio-political imagery of the game we are playing, and it is this fact that frightens people like Mr. Klosterman. No longer is it sufficient to be merely a student of the human condition, but now journalists have the daunting task of reviewing technical achievements, usability, music, sound, art, and story all rolled into the same package. Thus, a new breed of critics was born of this necessity. A group that was both technically minded and able to grasp the intricacies of the art presented in games. Furthermore, they were peers to gamers, and gamers were receptive to their comments. If you look at Gamespot, Gamespy, IGN, Penny-Arcade, and all the other great game critics out there, it is impossible to say that "game criticism does not exits." It exists, only just outside the reach of an aging generation of culture journalists.

nobeaner
nobeaner

I really enjoyed this article. I think the points that were brought up were very well thought out and definitely showed what was missing from video game writing in general. Can you imagine if video game writing had someone like Hunter S. Thompson?

Ben_Harper
Ben_Harper

chuck's the man. he obviously isn't hardcore about games, but i think he's right - while there is some interesting criticism at places like insert credit, there's no lester bangs, and it's tough because most game reviewers are forced to explain how the game is played, what the plotline is, the history of the franchise, etc, before getting into serious criticism. i don't know when gaming will get to the point where a lester bangs will emerge - but i wouldn't be surprised at all if it happened. and thanks to gs for giving klosterman a forum to respond to his critics.

regg949
regg949

is this a pic of sally jesse rafael?

Mit_Man
Mit_Man

This guy obviously doesn't know about Nintendo's new game plan with Wii. He'd probably like it, what with them targeting people who don't play video games. If they really do pull it off and interest a lot of non-game players, actual "criticism" of games may appear with larger publications having things to do with games in them and talking about stuff, like how much fun they had playing Tennis on their Wii.

osheamo
osheamo

Interesting article.

d0n7_p4n1k
d0n7_p4n1k

This is a slippery issue because for critics to think about the artistic meaning of games, there must be artistic meaning in games; and I know that most of the games I play don't strive to be artistic (not all!). I think this is an issue that is the industry's fault and not the consumers/gamer's fault.

nproehl
nproehl

Man, does anybody on this thing actually grasp (in part) what he is hinting at? It's unfortunate that 95% of the hardcore gamer crowd are under the age of 30, because a little age adds another dimension to this whole brewhaha. Think about it: this generation is the first generation to have a video game culture fully realized and available to them. Before that, there was no such thing. Different mediums occupied the niche that video games now take up; image, hardcore gamers, what you would be doing if video games simply did not exist... pinball, perhaps? Or possibly the world of auto mechanics? Chess? What would it be? What Chuck is hinting at is the fact that there now exists this THING, this culture (or sub-culture, language nazis) that exists, and so completely dominates this generation, that it desperately needs A Voice. Think about it. The generation before had TV, the one before that, radio. These were things never before available, and with their introduction, radically changed the way our culture itself was structured... indeed, it changed the very way the human species looked at the world. Video games have done exactly that for this generation. However, no person has yet emerged to give A Voice to the Big Picture of what the emergence of video games mean to our culture. So while the hardcore set wants to dismiss Chuck's piece as being another outsider trying to decypher the inner working of an insular, reclusive sub-culture, they are missing the starting shot of what should be a race to define what video game culture is and what it means to our culture as a whole. By defining video games in such a manner, the amount of questioning eyes cast upon the industry in toto would be far reduced, as now an understanding betwen the mainstream and the hardcore could be reached... Chuck does miss one big point though: video games are not just akin to the creation of rocknroll, but rather akin to the creation of music itself.

gamestar412
gamestar412

solsub "For gaming to go mainstream is suicide. The masses cannot possibly comprehend the true meaning/value of great games and the hard work that go into them." It's archaic nerdy thinking like that, that keeps gaming out of the minds of other people. It's people like you others think of when they think of gaming culture. And you sir are a stereotype.

solsub
solsub

For gaming to go mainstream is suicide. The masses cannot possibly comprehend the true meaning/value of great games and the hard work that go into them. They only care for the bland/generic, and that will be fed to us in abundance by companies who only care to make money. I don't care for games achieving a certifiable status as an art form, and nor should any of you. They were meant to entertain us in diverse ways, and the latter may mar their purpose. However, it may all already be too late. It happened to music. It happened to movies. It's happening to games.

jaredgood1
jaredgood1

I agree that there are not any game critics. Klosterman is making a distinction between critics and reviewers, and stating that games are written more like product reviews rather than critiques. Seriously, compare a game review to any Ebert criticism. Game reviews usually give a breakdown of sound, graphics, control, etc. When have you seen a film, art or music review that followed this procedure? The breakdown is how you would review a cell phone or piece of compute hardware. His Esquire article did have one flaw, however. He quotes Steven Johnson saying Video games generally have narratives and some kind of character development, but - almost without exception - these are the least interesting things about them. Gamers don't play because they're drawn into the story line; they play because there's something intoxicating about the mix of exploring an environment and solving problems. The stories are an afterthought." Personally, if a game doesn't have a good overall story and well designed world that the characters actually live in and not just move from point A to B, I'm not going to keep playing it. Look at RPGs, if there is not an interesting story, how many people would keep coming back to a largly menu driven gameplay system? I wouldn't.

gamestar412
gamestar412

themessanger I agree with you, I wish these idiots would stop criticizing someone they know nothing about. Anyone making rash generalizations of who Chuck K. is should go read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. This guy can make Billy Joel seem interesting, and can prove why The Real World has become the real world.

shibipocanibo
shibipocanibo

Wow, themessanger is right. You should all pay heed to his words. He was never bashing on Gamespot either. Gamespot has kickass writers, but (no offense GS) none of them have gotten an offer from the New York Times or the Associated Press to have a syndicated weekly column on video games. He makes a pretty good point, Ebert & Roepert (While not exactly intellectually stimulating) are huge and get watched by millions, yet movies will never again be able to come close to churning out the same kind of revenue the video game industry has in the last 5 1/2 years.

RanXer0x
RanXer0x

***MY ULTIMATE POST*** Games cannot be summed up in critiques of artistic form at all. It's impossible. There is a duration to music/film, the content alone is easily subject to artistic measurements. The exception to this is Painting and Writing and even these are still subject to similar measurements due to their depth. The individual goes throughout each game at their own pace, often with their own experience/desires. Some games, the actual game play itself is the artistic experience to be measured. Other games: graphics. I paint, write, film and game. I can fight the argument that I'm not an artist very easily.

ReyWing
ReyWing

And anyone can go to the Video Game Museum online - http://www.vgmuseum.com/ - and appreciate the art that is videogames but not be "gamers."

themessanger
themessanger

I think several of you should go out and buy Klosterman's books right now. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs in particular. Not only is this man hilarious, but he has the ability to write really compelling criticism of things you may have never thought about before. You need to think for a minute about where this discusison is occurring, on a video game news and review site. And for those making fun of his picture, I'd love to see you all put very large photos of yourselves next to everything you post here. And as for everyone who is whining that Klosterman is somehow contributing to the pussification and dumping into the mainstream of video gaming, get a grip on reality. Gaming has been mainstream for a long time. How long ago did video game sales surpass box-office reciepts? A long time ago thats when. And how can you blame someone like him? Look at what is happening in the industry we love. Creativity isnt being destroyed by gaming media, its being destroyed by CEO's who want million sellers every time even if it means never again developing a truly revolutionary title. They see the sky-rocketing cost of A-List title development as a mere fact of life, not something they can change. Why we need a Lester Bangs of video games is because for the world to recognize this beautiful art form called video games, it has to be possible to understand it from the outside. You all can go to an art museum and appreciate the paintings on the wall, but you arent "art people."

gamerchikrpg
gamerchikrpg

damn... man! i thought it was a q&a with chuck NORRIS! i'm dissapointed. chuck norris would be less of an ass.

RanXer0x
RanXer0x

He's just pissed that he works for a magazine. Yeah, you know what a magazine is kids? It's that paper stuff that was replaced by the internet. I say we have our own culture and epicenter, people don't get it from the outside because it's like trying to relate to your kids culturally, it just doesn't happen. *Especially from people that work in different industries. Maybe it's harsh to mention, but gaming culture is so utterly and completely different than anything that has come before it. Fact

LordelX
LordelX

This article is absolutely right. No one writes about video games outside the gameplaying audience. No one writes about the artistic merits of games. The only journalism that exists about video games right now is enthusist journalism. Think about it. Does anyone who doesn't play games know about this website?

atreidesmx
atreidesmx

Who is this guy anyway?... It's a very simplistic approach... Music is VERY universal and has a wide array of genres, of which rock & roll is only one of them... Video games is also a MEDIUM and has a large array of genres, and to lump them all together as "one thing" is not very bright.... So basically this guy compares apples with oranges... Now go and boil your bottom, son of a silly person! I don't want to talk you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper! I fart in your general direction, You mother was a hampster, and your father smelt of elderberries! Go away or I shall taunt you a second time! ;)

ReyWing
ReyWing

NOTE: I haven't read the original Esquire article. I basically feel that Mr. Klosterman is generalizing. Also, he should have made his point about there being no criticism more concise so there wouldn't have been so much misunderstanding and NEED for an interview/clarification with CNET. "Video-game criticism doesn't exist." Hm, first of all, any video-game review fits under that heading. So, he is wrong. Also, there ARE people that write about video-game subject matter and NOT just reviews of games. Heck, one of the last articles I read on Gamespot was the recent article on the Uncanncy Valley! Or just go to GameFaqs.com and you'll find dozens of story critiques/theories to games like Silent Hill and Condemned. I think that video-game (subject matter) criticism DOES exist but that there aren't that many. I assume that now with this article out there will many people wanting to contribute =D "... not really involved with this world. And I'm not. Esquire's not a video game magazine. I write about things that are interesting to me." How can he not be involved in a world he's interested in? That's paradoxical to me. If he's so interested, I suggest Mr. Klosterman should lead the charge to write "literary critiques" about video-game subject matter.

gamestar412
gamestar412

rumsfeld47 " What a pretentious richard. As if video games needed help becoming the dominant entertainment media for the 21st century. As if video games need to be legitimized. Legitimacy is irrelevant. Who is this guy, anyway? I used to work at a record store, and this is exactly the kind of richard I used to work with everyday. They're not doing anything interesting, but they're still a huge richard." Is richard an insult in your country? Anyway videogames need to be legitimate. As it stands now games are the scape goat for our country's problems. Parents and politicians alike are always up in arms over what they are doing to our youth. If there were critics who could show these ignorant fools just why they are integral to our culture this might lessen. The reason no one in the industry right now can do this is because everyone sees these people as nerds, fanboys, and on the whole video game lovers not critics. Sure Gamespot reviews games but they are skewed toward the general gaming populace and not toward normal people who don't know why these games are "fun". You say your grandparents didn't listen to Elvis. Just a heads up no one cares about old people in popular culture. We're talking about average people who don't know why games should be considered legitimate not elderly people.

SuperH75mil
SuperH75mil

So this Klosterman fellow thinks that the gaming sub-culture should cease being a sub-culture and fully emerge into the world at large as a legitimate pasttime, thanks to the writing of some crack pop journalist who just happens to click with the incredibly intelligent pop-mag-reading audience. Lovely. I know I both speak for and echo many gamers like me (some of which have posted prior in a similar fashion) when I say that we enjoy the relative insularity of our industry, and take pride in the fact that when some luminary developer or recognized gaming critic/journalist makes some comment or statement about the state of gaming, they know what they're talking about, and more importantly it matters to us, the gaming public. Moreover, due to the still-fairly-contained nature of inner gaming society, where single-player super-achievers, juggernaut FPS teams, roleplaying mega-geeks, and guild-associated MMO masters rule the roost, it is possible for some of us to actually interact with our critics, such as the way GameSpot itself runs serials like "On the Spot" and "Burning Questions." (Shameless plugging or effective point-making? Hmmm...) Sure, we occasionally complain that we're not properly understood by society at large, and that maybe mainstream acceptance is what we need to really show those buggers what's for. Frankly, it's hypocracy on our parts when we complain, as the majority of us revel in what used to be and mostly continues to be that "gamer's underground," which excludes outsiders in its quest to more appropriately deliver information and community-oriented activities to those who actually give a ****. Where is the need for outside interference, aside from some regulatory and informative proceedings courtesy of the ESRB? Casual onlookers will come and go, but their opinions are essentially meaningless to the gaming faithful, so why bother asking for them? Mainstream acceptance, outside of basic legal support, is simply unnecessary to propogate and enhance our fundamental enjoyment of the games we play. The point I'm making can be summed up by referencing this very post. I know that it will never be seen outside of the GameSpot news page, and there's a high likelihood that the majority of GS newsbugs will pass over my opinions as well. But I'm completely okay with that. Those who side with me (or disagree with me) will have temporarily made a mental note of my words, and that little piece of recognition, from a gamer for or against a gamer, is all that really matters in our hardcore society.

gamestar412
gamestar412

decebal "The gaming industry is plaged by crap corporations that simply try to satisfy the needs of the masses (noobs) who don't know much about games but are very impressed with anything looking good." Eventually the bubble is going to burst. When we reach a level of photo realism the gaming population at large will stop buying what looks the most cool and buy what is the most innovative. It's sad that it's come to this but it's what must happen for the industry to start over. Conversely the bubble could never burst and we'll be forced into a series of endless rehashed games with a fraction of games actually doing something new.

rumsfeld47
rumsfeld47

What a pretentious richard. He has all sorts of requirements for what "he" thinks video gaming needs. As if video games needed help becoming the dominant entertainment media for the 21st century. As if video games need to be legitimized. Legitimacy is irrelevant. And he seems to be suggesting that no writers exist (cough, Greg Kasavin, cough) who could write ABOUT video games in a way that would be interesting to people who DON'T PLAY GAMES. I'm pretty sure my Grandparents didn't listen to Elvis, and I'm pretty sure they didn't read about Elvis from some donkeyhole who wrote about Elvis but made it interesting to people who didn't listen to Elvis. Who is this guy, anyway? I used to work at a record store, and this is exactly the kind of richard I used to work with everyday. They're not doing anything interesting, but they're still a huge richard.

SNKrock
SNKrock

I think this article interests the gaming-journalism community moreso than the gaming-consumer audience.

decebal
decebal

Personally I regret that gaming got so mainstream. Gone is the inovation and creativity. Gone and replaced by tierd repetition, and incremental improvment. We complain that companies like EA are ruining the industry, but we get what we ask for. They wouldn't make an expansion pack every 3 months if we wouldn't buy it. They wouldn't give us the same unpolished game with new skins on top, if that wasn't what we wanted.... And on top of that, we go around and show off with it: "1337! UBER Kewl." The gaming industry is plaged by crap corporations that simply try to satisfy the needs of the masses (noobs) who don't know much about games but are very impressed with anything looking good. And so we get what we ask for. Deny it all you want, but there will always be more noobs than anything else. And the more mainstream the industry gets, the more noobs we see. And noobs are the driving force behind decisions makeing for game developers. Because more people means more money. And if you want to make money as a game developer, you have to target the largest audience... or at least to remotly satisfy their expectations. (UBER GFX or whatever.) Thus we killed the inovation back in the day... and we feed ourselves with crap FPS and sequels that do nothing new, but shine better.

Benny_is_here
Benny_is_here

I have the feeling gaming is becoming more mainstream. We just have to try and make it more mainstream. More and more magazines have a little gaming section in the back and stuff like that. My mother sat don't and watched me play Oblivion and said she was surprised of how captivating it was. The only reason she doesn't play with me is because she's a newbie at using controllers, and it's too complicated. That, and she gets serious "gamer rage"... Point is, I think we'll be seeing more gaming in the midstream.

Angel_Belial
Angel_Belial

I agree with what Chuck is saying. A couple of weeks or so ago Reservoir Dogs was banned in Australia, and that got a couple of small mentions on the radio, but not on the news on T.V., or even in newspapers (that I could see). Outside of gaming magazines, there are simply no articles on games when you exclude the snippets on controversial things (such as Hot Coffee and banned games). That is one of the reasons gaming is such an isolated entertainment form when compared to music and movies.

gamestar412
gamestar412

thekey "A lot of times you realy don't know if the games are good or not unless you rent of purchase them, and that sucks. Back in the day during "the golden age of video games" there was so many great games at the same period of time to choose from, now the games look 1000 times better, but most are just eye candy, they play 1000 times worst than they look. Games now are shorter and less challenging. (Only A few games really stand out and give a great wow factor, but once the "casual gamer" got involved games now are slapped on like fake cheese on fast food burgers)" There was no "golden age" of video games. Crap knows no boundries. You say 75% of the titles put out during the Genesis/SNES era were good? How old were you? 75% of this list does not look good. [url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sega_Genesis_games[/url] Casual gamers are, believe it or not good for the game industry. Just because hardcore gamers think they pose a threat to the games we play doesn't mean it's true. Gamers are for the most part socially looked down upon. They are outcasts, people who Chuck says would be perfect for soccer. It's only natural for gamers to feel threatened by the inclusion of outside people. As for the difficulty and length of games, thats absurd. One need only look at Final Fantasy and see the difference between FF3 and FF12.

mhder
mhder

That picture... It's a guy?

nicestreetsabov
nicestreetsabov

I think people are missing the important distinction between "criticism" and "reviews". People like Lester Bangs and, indeed, Chuck Klosterman are true critics because they examine the social importance of art in the world at large, as well as (attempting) to uncover deeper meaning. Reviews, and reviewers are more concerned with things like graphics, or sound, or how well the story is implemented. The main aim of criticism is to be subjective. That's the difference between, say, a book review (which would look at how well the plot is implemented, or if the characters are interesting) and a literary criticism (which might subject the book to deconstruction or Marxist theory. So, Klosterman is absolutely right when he says that game criticism doesn't exist. There is no one (or no one well known) who subjects games to critical theory. Perhaps this is because no critical theory applies to games; perhaps it is because of the escapist nature of most games, and the fact that most gamers staunchly want only entertainment and not headscratching. I enjoy GameSpot as much as the next person. If I'm looking for a game to buy, they're the first site I check. Klosterman's article is as much an indictment of the gaming industry (which willfully keeps gamers in a state of arrested development for the sake of profits) as it is of the non-existent critical community which is incapable of transcending the borders of "gaming culture" to reach society at large.

mathdeity
mathdeity

I found CK's original column and this follow Q&A to be interesting reads. I believe that if the main-stream critic he is musing about existed then they would be able to explain to soccer moms everywhere why GTA 3 (not San Andreas) was such a revolutionary, rock your world, and socially important type of game. I believe media outlets like Gamespot are only able to speak to us the gamers who already understand the uber'ness of GTA 3. It'd be nice if someone could communicate what we know to the people with the power to oppose uninformed fools like Jack Thompson.

daigre7
daigre7

Who else thought when you saw this guy's picture that it was Sally Jessy Raphael???

japam
japam

I agree that at this moment, video games desperately need a mainstream critic (or two). While that wouldn't produce writing that hardcore gamers would get much of anything out of, an awareness of games' artistic value NEEDS to be brought to the public at large. With games only getting negative attention in the mainstream media, we're on the edge of a "Seduction of the Innocent" scenario. In the 50's, thanks to a hysteria that everything rotten in America was somehow caused by comic books, a comics code was forced upon the entire industry. Regardless of how creative your work was, if your content didn't obey the cookie cutter Code, your book was not allowed into retail. Nobody at that time could argue authoritatively that comics were anything more than junk culture. A Pauline Kael was there for film, Lester Bangs was there for rock and roll. If no one can force America to recognize the artistic potential in games, politicians will succeed in shackling the industry with across-the-board censorship.

ZosoFan
ZosoFan

"PlanoPunisher- Never heard of Chuck Klosterman until now. I don't think very many people under the age of 30 read print magazines. They have been declining in circulation since the dawn of the internets and have ceased being relevant. " Apparently you dont hang around teenage girls much... And i recommend everyone read his books they are quite good

ZosoFan
ZosoFan

Good Post Ronin, Chuck Klosterman is one of my favorite others. Its funny 90% of the people he was referring to still dont understand what he was talking about...

John_of_Fire
John_of_Fire

Bravo BewilderedRonin. Your one of the few people to actually gets what he is talking about.

BewilderedRonin
BewilderedRonin

"Why would the gaming world want superficial critics penning meaningless articles aimed at non-gamers?" Exactly. They can stick to film and music. I read enough articles that do anything but actually describe the music. I don't care how it made you feel, I don't care about some story about how if your dad used to beat you and some song reminds you of it. Perhaps that's why so many music mags have such little music reviewing in it. Get rid of the narcicism, realize you'll never be a rich and famous author, and just tell me what the damn album sounds like. /rant Also, why would we want a central voice? Diversity is a good thing. I want many different people offering many different viewpoints, and I don't want one to hold more weight or more authority than another becasue of name-dropping and pop-culture revelance. That's one of the reasons I like GS. IGN reviews suck and tend to be fanboish hype articles. I also enjoy the user reviews on GS. I don't hold on review over another because of how popular on writer is or because one writer has been a member longer. I base the articles maerit on how much someone actually had to say and whether or not they were looking at the game and it's mechanics objectively. "I grasped the disc, hoping that there, within this imaginary world of anonymous denizens, I could forge a new life. A new hope. Would my dreams be fulfilled? Could I, nay, should I pay $15 a month to play? Woudl I lose a piece of myself in the process if I did..." I don't want to read crap like that at GS. It's better of left at some nitwits blog and is exactly why I don't read Spin or Rolling Stone. IIf I want news about the world and politics, I don't pick up Rolling Stone, or Esquire. I pick up Harpers, The Atlantic Monthly, and The National Review. I don't care what some burnout twit from Spin thinks about climatic change or what some pretentious fool from some supermarket rag (such as Esquire) says. If I want real news and real articles, I go to a real source. Did the Esquire guy ever stop to think that it's hard to interest people in how awesome game X is going to be because of the new pixel shader architecture that it's implementing? It's like trying to get PC Mag to appeal to the supermarket-mommy crowd. It's not going to happen and it doesn't need to happen. And if it does happen, then that should say something about the information to fluff ratio of the source material.

ducki3x
ducki3x

I don't think a flagship reviewer would be obligated to cover every single game - if a film critic tried to see every film that was released, from the biggest blockbuster to the most obscure indie release, they would never have time to actually evaluate them. Going further, I don't even thing the type of critic Klosterman is talking about would necessarily be someone who did the nuts-and-bolts "3 of 5 stars for Quake VIII" or whatever; I think he's talking about someone who can be a critic of gaming as a movement, as a whole. Someone who will take the industry to task when it's being lazy AND someone who can be a passionate advocate of the medium. Someone who people will read whether or not they care about games, but because his or her arguments are persuasive, well crafted and exciting to read. When I read through collections of Pauline Kael's film reviews, I found myself agreeing with her perspective only occasionally. Setting aside our wildly diverging viewpoints, I loved to read her stuff because she was a great writer and she obviously loved film so much that she wasn't afraid to savage it. It's this kind of writing that I think Klosterman is talking about, and that I would love to see someone apply to games.

Polybren
Polybren

thekey, I've got dozens of SNES and Genesis games, and as much affection as I might have for them, I would say that 75% of them are not worth calling "good." Games have come a long, long way since those days, and I think they don't get nearly enough credit for that.